These 4 Basic Hobbies Will Improve Your Health

Our hobbies are an essential component of our personal lives, but did you know they can be good for your mental and physical health too? Here are four hobbies that could give you a big health boost this year!

Gardening for the brain

Gardening may not initially seem like exercise, but studies have reported that a wealth of unexpected health benefits are associated with keeping your garden in order.

Firstly, the simple actions of pulling weeds, planting, and reaching for tools all contribute to a subtle form of aerobic exercise, which we know helps work muscles and boosts strength, stamina, and flexibility.

Also, being outdoors is just good for you. A 2014 study published in PLOS One found that gardening and regular cycling reduce the likelihood of vitamin D deficiency in elderly people.

And there is an association between decreased dementia risk and gardening, with one study reporting a 36 percent lower risk of dementia among people who gardened daily.

Both gardening and DIY were also linked with a reduction in the risk of heart attack and stroke of up to 30 percent in a 2013 study, conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

Writing: A wonder for wound healing

Writing has been linked to a number of mental and physical health benefits, including improvements in memory, stress levels, and sleep, among other things.

Several studies, for instance, have found that writing about their experiences helps cancer patients to come to terms with their illnesses, helping the patients to withstand stress and potentially contribute to improved physical outcomes.

One intriguing study conducted by researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand even investigated whether writing may affect the speed at which wounds heal.

They found that 11 days after a small skin biopsy, 76 percent of the wounds in the group of participants writing about trauma had healed, while in the group of participants writing about their daily plans, only 42 percent of wounds had healed.

Overall, writing is a great tool for self-expression, and while journaling about trauma can be cathartic, there are also possible social benefits in writing for a public audience. Blogging, for instance, can help people to forge new relationships and build communities around their interests.

Dancing: A fun form of exercise

Dancing has a whole range of health benefits and it is an easy and accessible way to exercise for most people. Think about it: you don’t need a lot of equipment to dance – just your feet, some tunes, and preferably a friend or two.

Dancing is gentle on the body – you can push yourself as hard as you want or settle into a comfortable groove that is just right for you. And anyone can dance!

Even if you are shy of cutting loose on the dancefloor, pretty much everyone enjoys moving their body to music, even if it is just within the comfort of their own home; there is no right or wrong way to dance. Just do whatever feels good to you!

Dancing is a social activity, and we know that keeping active socially is important for general well-being Most importantly, dancing is fun. This is a pain-free, energizing workout. But how, specifically, does dancing keep us healthy?

Firstly, dancing is an excellent cardio workout, and we know that cardio workouts help to improve cardiovascular health, increase stamina, and strengthen bones and muscles.

A 2011 Cochrane Review that examined 94 studies involving 9,917 participants also found that dancing at least three times per week seemed to improve balance in the elderly.

Dancing is also good for brain health. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported an association between regular dancing excursions and a 76 percent reduction in dementia risk.

Music is medicine

Playing and listening to music can also benefit both mental and physical health. In 2013, Medical News Today reported on the first large-scale review of research papers studying music’s influence on neurochemistry.

The review suggested that music can boost the body’s immune system, lower levels of stress and anxiety, and ease depression.

Among patients awaiting surgery, listening to music was found to be more effective at decreasing anxiety than prescription drugs, and listening to and playing music was linked to lower levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol.

To get some idea of how much music excites our brains, a 2011 study also compared the brain’s response to music with its reactions to food and sex, as the pleasurable feelings derived from all three are driven by release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.